The once-thriving goldmining town of Ravenswood in North Queensland is considered a modern-day ghost town, and not because the number of its spirited people has declined.

Story By Carly Crummey

A visit to Ravenswood, 89 kilometres east of Charters Towers, is like taking a journey back in time. If it wasn’t for the power lines, bitumen and occasional street light you could easily be passing through in the early 1900s. In saying that, there would have been much more activity at the beginning of last century. Ravenswood was established as the first major goldmining town in North Queensland in 1868 and its population peaked in 1903 at about 5000 people. At that stage the bustling settlement boasted 40 hotels and shanties that served to quench the thirst and loneliness of dusty miners who had come from far and wide.
These days the population of the charming heritage-listed town sits at 140 and two pubs remain, along with a post office, a school with 19 students, a museum, church, pottery shop, camping grounds and the mining operation of Carpentaria Gold, which started in 1987 and injected life into the town once more by employing about 300 people.
Like signposts to the past, there are a number of rusted mining remains dispersed around Ravenswood’s landscape, including the chimney stack ruins of the Mabel Mill and the 140-year-old miner’s cottage.
Another significant dwelling that has survived a number of different occupancies is Thorp’s Building on Macrossan Street. Built in 1904 as a hardware store and iron-mongery, it is now the home and business place of Shelley Burt where she sells historical hardware, Ravenswood relics and her own hand-crafted pottery.
Shelley moved to the town with her family from Cooktown four years ago. “What’s not to love?” she says as she calmly kneads her clay while visitors examine yellowed newspaper articles, rusted mining tools, and walls of coloured glass bottles. Shelley is surrounded by more than the physical objects of the past: she reveals that countless people have come into the two-storey building and sensed another presence.

This story excerpt is from Issue #68

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2010